By Sean Barron
Sue Phillips vividly recalls the horror she felt when one in a series of devastating tornadoes that struck the region May 31, 1985, destroyed her Hubbard residence.
“We [had] added a bedroom to the house,” said Phillips, who still lives in Hubbard. “I came home [from visiting in-laws] and everything was gone.”
Well, not exactly everything. One valuable thing that the twister couldn’t touch was Phillips’ longtime friendships with — and help from — seven women she had befriended in high school years earlier.
In addition to emotional support, their assistance included taking her food and clothing, as well as searching for any salvageable property after the storm.
“Their help was tremendous because I knew I had people to count on,” added Phillips, a retired housekeeper.
Phillips recently shared her harrowing but triumphant story from the Misty Ridge Road home of Patricia Geisler, where they and five other longtime friends gathered.
Most of the eight members of “The Club,” as they call themselves, met in elementary school and all solidified their friendships in the early 1960s, when seven were students at Girard High School and one attended Mineral Ridge High ... and when Phillips was Sue Brdek and Geisler was Patti Duncan.
The others are Judy (Makar) Entzi and Cindy (Tascione) Sweeney, both of Girard; Donna (Jones) Fatula of Deerfield, Portage County; Arlene (Barnett) Holmes of Mineral Ridge; Rose (Ragazzine) Ashton of McDonald; and Mary Lu (Barber) Comer of Peoria, Ariz.
The eight 1965 graduates have remained close friends for over five decades and get together often, including the third Wednesday of each month.
Comer was unable to attend the recent get-together at Geisler‘s home, but stays in contact with the women via Skype, a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet.
Over the years the friends have taken part in formal gatherings such as one another’s weddings, graduations and baby showers, as well as those of their children. Holmes fondly recalled a recent baby shower in Niles for her granddaughter at which a table had been designated for the eight friends.
“It made my day, having the group,” said Holmes, who retired from Packard Electric. “They’re [also] my family.”
But don’t think that the women deprive themselves of opportunities to let their hair down a bit.
They aren’t averse to partaking of a little shopping at a local flea market or consignment shop, or simply going out to eat. Sometimes, though, their sense of adventure demands more than routine trips to area restaurants or shops — as was the case last June, when the eight found themselves taking a minivacation at Treasure Lake near DuBois, Pa.
The popular 1960s hit “Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys is one they will likely remember well. After all, it was the song they lent their voices to during a karaoke gathering at a restaurant near their vacation spot.
Several in the group shared other experiences that were made easier and more positive, thanks to fellow “Club” members.
“They came and rocked the baby and made food,” said Entzi, referring to when her 1-year-old grandson fell, broke his leg and had to be placed in a body cast.
Nevertheless, if you ask the women about the best aspect of their enduring bond to one another, they will mention, without hesitation, several intangibles.
“It’s friendship, a support group and therapy in one,” said Entzi, who retired from the Trumbull County Educational Service Center as a speech pathologist for children with special needs.
“It’s fun being one of us,” added Ashton.
So, what does the future hold for the eight inseparable women? Most likely a bond that will remain strong and vibrant.
But don’t count out a trip next year to Branson, Mo.